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A Human Prisoner in the Dragon Kingdom
Here's an earlier scene that shows the conspiracy theories that some Humans have about Dragons.  For context, this scene takes place the morning after a widely publicised memorial service.  Offstage, one military Dragon threatened Valko after being verbally provoked.  Onstage, another military Dragon went a bit over-the-top in her speech, going on an aggressive rant, still haunted by her memories of the previous novel.


“Fucking Dragons!” shouted Valko as he gestured dismissively at the news projection.  “This is it!  This is what I’ve been talking about all this time!  This is why the world needs to be freed from the yoke of their global agenda!”

“I salute your words,” said Kaski, Valko’s club deputy.  

“I second that,” said Ziva, Valko’s ornamental manicurist, not looking up from her work on his left middle fingernail.  With her index finger, she focused her conjury to create the most detailed possible picture in the smallest possible space, careful not to burn the surrounding skin.

The Real People’s Freedom League Clubhouse – located in the basement of a twenty-storey stackmarket a few blocks down from the Summit Complex – was scarcely active this morning, with all but three members sleeping in an adjoining room after a stressful night.  For now, the Clubhouse common room was lit up by an old and glitchy receiver crystal.  Above the crystal, Squadron Leader Alathaka’s now infamous speech was being replayed.  


The approving cheer of last night’s crowd followed.

“I hope she’s only talking about other Dragons,” Ziva added, still focusing her sight and mind on her fingernail art.  “We should just let them burn each other.”

“If only it were that simple,” said Valko.  “The Skywatch pretend to hate the New Draconic Order because they want to reassure us that they’re not the bad Dragons.  ‘Oh, the bad Dragons want to kill you, but we only want to protect you.’  That’s what they say they’re selling.  But the NDO and the Skywatch are both playing the same game.  Why do you think Bysamathark’s lizard goons had double agents all over the Skywatch?  Hey?  One in thirty Skywatch officers?  Do you really believe the Skymarshal knew nothing about that all those years?”

“Yeah, and one of those double agents was a Commodore,” said Kaski.  “The one who dyed her scales.  What was her name again?  Sigalika?”

“Syjilika,” Valko corrected.  

“Yeah, Syjilika,” said Kaski.  “God, every time I try to pronounce their names, I feel like I’m gonna choke on my toast.  But this Commodore zebra-looking bitch was Bysamathark’s fuck doll as well.  What a surprise!”

Valko shook his head.  “It’s all so obvious.  Why do you think Banthonotrax clawed out Bysamathark’s eye and booted him out of the force?  Hey?  Because the Skymarshal was a ‘nice Dragon’ who liked Humans and wanted to get rid of all Dragon’s who didn’t?  Yeah?  So why didn’t he boot out all the other hundred and sixty double agents while he was at it?  No, he only got rid of Bysamathark because he was exposing the Draconic Global Agenda to the rest of the world.  And he couldn’t have that.  They couldn’t have some hothead blowing their cover, could they?”

“Speaking right, mate,” said Kaski.

“Do you think Dragons would give a dry sooty one about us if there wasn’t something in it for them?  Fuck no.  What do you think they’ve been doing for twenty thousand years?”

“Burning our villages,” said Kaski.

“Stealing our gold,” said Ziva.

“And our cattle,” said Kaski.

“Speaking right,” said Valko.  “And then they look at all our huge cities and the fancy things we’re doing with crystals, and they think ‘Ooh, something shiny!  I’d like some of that!’  So they come crawling on their bellies bearing pitiful little trinkets saying ‘Ooh, we’re sorry!  We’re sooorry!  We want to be your friends now!  Promise!  Oh, and by the way, here’s a silver swan our ancestors stole from your ancestors five thousand years ago.  It should look nice and pretty on your mantelpiece.  Aren’t we generous?’  And our dumb-arse statesmen forget everything they’ve ever learned about history and start humping their scaly tree-trunk legs like rich ladies’ lapdogs.  Pathetic.”

“And now, look, the media is giving them a free platform, no matter what shit they get up to,” said Kaski, gesturing at the news hologram.

“The media, the banks, the so-called ‘Free Nations’.  What a joke that is.  Do you think those lizards gave back all the gold and gemstones they stole from us over twenty thousand years?  Do you think they gave back even one tenth of it?”

“Why would they?” said Kaski.

“Exactly.  So who do you think controls the price of gold?  Hey?  Who has the most gold?”

“Soot lizards,” said Kaski.

“Speaking right,” said Valko.  “They control the price of everything ‘cause they fucking stole everything.”

“My uncle works in the meat industry,” said Kaski.  “He has to pay twelve hundred per head of cattle because the fucking soot lizards jacked up the prices again.”

“Well, they’re not going to give away their favourite dish for free, are they?” said Ziva.  Her work on Valko’s middle fingernail was almost complete.  It was an ornate heat-etching of the legendary Dragonslayer Vanzikarn, his crystal sword raised in stoic defiance as it channelled lightning from his pure untainted mind.  She had already completed her etchings of Halivox the Gouger and Shereti the Poisoner, equal heroes in the hearts and minds of so many proud Humans who refused to forget their heritage.  For that was the true creed of the Real People’s Freedom League.  To them, Humans were the only Real People, the True Citizens of Haloken, for they settled on the planet years before Dragons existed.  Humans had the numbers.  In a True Democracy, that was all that mattered.

“If only,” said Valko.  “If only cattle were a Dragon’s favourite dish.  But that’s not what I’ve been hearing lately.”

“What …” Kaski was shocked out of whatever had remained of his hangover.  “You’re not saying …”

“That can’t be true,” said Ziva, trying not to tremble.  “Not about the larder caves.”

“Oh, it’s true all right,” said Valko.  “Janzol has an anonymous contact working for the Global Council.  He says that the larder caves in Karastyna are an open secret.  They keep live Humans down there and save them for special banquets.  Children are a specialty.”

“No way,” said Ziva.

“Oh yes,” said Valko.  “They say they’ve been breeding Humans for generations just to get the perfect taste.  And you know what the worst part is?”

“I don’t want to know,” said Ziva.  She had to pause for a few seconds, worried she might lose control.

“You’re gonna know anyway,” said Valko.  “You have to know.  That’s what the Freedom League is all about – knowing the stuff the rest of the mob refuses to believe, the stuff they close their eyes and block their ears at the first mention.  We are pioneers and truth seekers, and that takes courage, so you have to listen, all right?”

Ziva nodded jerkily.

“He says that the Global Council makes secret deals with the soot lizards in Karistyna to hand over Humans for their Larder Caves.  We’re not talking high profile criminals that everyone will ask questions about.  No, we’re talking little pipsqueaks like you and me that nobody important will miss.  Small landowners in debt.  Failed businessmen who pack up and leave to supposedly set up shop somewhere else.  Petty crooks  Drug addicts.  Political dissenters.  People who stumble onto things that they shouldn’t set their eyes on.  Sometimes they throw in their entire families as a bonus.  Yeah.  What did I say?  Kids are a specialty.  Like, the skin-flavoured icing on the Human cake.  Literally.”

“Fucking soot lizards,” Kaski spat hatefully.

Ziva said nothing.  She just tried her best to focus all her attention on Valko’s middle fingernail while her breath silently choked up and tears welled in her eyes.

That was when Valko felt the sharp sting on the quick of his fingernail.

“Arrgh!  Stupid bitch!  Watch what yer doin!”

Ziva jerked her hand away from Valko’s, shakily wiping the tears from her eyes.  “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice cracking.  “I was just thinking about what you were-“

“Don’t give me fucking excuses!” said Valko, inspecting the tiny burn spot on his finger.  “Either do your job properly or get the fuck out!  I could walk outside right now and bump into ten sneet-snorting bitches on the street who could do your job with one steady hand and tickle my balls with the other.  So either finish what you’re doing or leave it to someone who doesn’t get the jitters and the weepy fits when she hears the morning news.  Got that?”

“Yes,” Ziva half-whispered.  “Shall I get the cream?”

“Cream?  Cream?  What the fuck would I need cream for?  What am I, a flower-wearing fandy dandy man?  Just get on with the engraving and keep yer mouth shut.  Smoking godbollocks, the stupid bitches I have to deal with.”

Kaski sat there and laughed as Ziva tearfully tried to keep her hand steady, returning her attention to the miniscule portrait on Valko’s fingernail.

Above the crystal, morning orator Charzon Gatzintoff was in heated discussion with another well-known Varantuan Human -  half-loved, half-hated political commentator Jerezee Klombasko.  

“But surely you could understand her perspective,” said Gatzintoff as he stood on the studio platform clutching the orator’s rod, a Varantuan tradition that dated back thousands of years, long before the days of nationwide crystal transmissions.  “She was a civilian just six short years ago.  Her college was invaded by terrorists.  She witnessed fourteen of her fellow students burned to ash before her very eyes.  She faced down … well … we all know!  Some of the worst names in history.  And she watched her own boyfriend brutally slaughtered by a bloodthirsty fascist who couldn’t even honour the duelling rules!  And now she’s a commanding officer in the-“

“Yes!” spat the hologram of Klombasko, flickering with emotion as he thumped an invisible table.  “Exactly!  She’s a Squadron Leader in the Skywatch!  One of the most responsible positions a Dragon could have in this world!  And what sort of role model is she making of herself?  I don’t just mean for other Dragons.  My teenage daughter has a portrait of her on her bedroom wall!  And look what this so-called hero is doing!  Prowling around the stage ranting and raving about burning all her enemies to ash!  Is this setting an example to millions of young people across the world who look up to her as a hero?  Do you want to see the next generation idolising a warmonger?”

“I’m sure that Officer Alathaka herself would strongly resent the term ‘warmonger’-“

“Of course she would.”

“But after what she has experienced –“

“There you go again.  Making excuses.  She’s not a civilian anymore!  She’s not a campus actress anymore!  She was when it happened, but after six years of training in the Skywatch, you would think she would –“

“This should make me laugh,” Valko spoke over the transmitted debate.  “Seriously, this should be hilarious if it weren’t so scary.  I mean, do they really expect a fucking Dragon to grow up and act like a civilized adult Human after six years?  Or sixty?  Or six hundred?  She’s a Dragon!  She flaps around and shouts and roars and belches fire!  And eats cows and screws other Dragons!  That’s all she does!  That’s all they ever do!  That’s all they know!  They’ve been doing it for twenty-one thousand years and they’re not gonna stop any time soon!”

Above the crystal, the debate was beginning to take a different turn.

“- Chief Commanding Officer of the Skywatch,” Gatzintoff addressed the viewer, “and successor to the late Banthonotrax, is Skymarshal Mirithaka.  It is an honour to have you on our forum, Skymarshal.”

A mare-sized hologram of Skymarshal Mirithaka flickered into existence on the Human host’s right-hand side, as elegant and stately as she had appeared on Olokuvon Island the previous night.  In the public eye, holographic forums were the great equalizer.  Dragons could speak to Humans at eye level even if they were kilometres away.

“The honour is mine, Mister Gatzintoff,” said the Skymarshal with a graceful nod.

“Here it comes,” Valko said with a sneer.  “Here it comes.  Dragon propaganda at its slickest.”

Kaski chuckled knowingly.  “Like I said, the Human media bows and scrapes and gives them a free platform every fucking time.”

“You still think Humans control their own news media?” said Valko.  “Do you think we still call the shots?  Nor while you or I have been alive.”

“- the emotional and psychological state of some Skywatch officers,” Gatzintoff said to Mirithaka, “especially some of the younger ones who may have not had enough time to fully process the … the sheer rage and grief they might be feeling after being forced into combat and losing loved ones?”

“While it is true that Squadron Leaders as young as Alathaka are quite rare,” said the Skymarshal, “I seriously hope you are not implying –“

“Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah,” said Kaski.  “Trust me, I’m one of the good Dragons.  Now on your knees and lick my claws clean.  Same shit over and over again every time this happens.”

Above the crystal, Skymarshal Mirithaka continued her appraisal of the Skywatch’s most famous living Squadron Leader.  “- one of our most competent and trusted officers, and well-respected and loved by her peers.  Her record over the past four years has been –“

“This is pathetic!” Valko shouted, startling Ziva and almost making her miss again.  “You could just about predict them line-for-line at this stage.”

“I don’t think millions of ordinary Humans out there are discussing Alathaka’s service record right now,” Klombasko interjected the Skymarshal.  This would have surprised no one – he had interrupted the President himself in one of these public debates.  “I think most of them are discussing her behaviour at last night’s memorial ceremony.  Which, incidentally, took place mere hours after another young Skywatch officer in her twenties – another Squadron Leader, in fact – threatened a Human civilian who only had ordinary psychokinetic powers a microscopic fraction of hers, I am led to believe.  A Human who was exercising his globally mandated right to free expression in his disdain for the Skywatch – a disdain that I myself do not share, I must add –“

“See, Valko?” Kaski intoned triumphantly.  “See?  What did I tell you?  You’re a global celebrity now!  You’re gonna rally more Humans to the cause!  Emancipate the Species!”  He raised his fist into the air.

Above the crystal came shaking, blinking memory footage of Valko’s exchange with the blue-and-gold Squadron Leader, as she scowlingly levitated him up to meet her furious gaze.

“Now that’s assault right there!” Klombasko snapped.  “Levitating against one’s will!  Skywatch officers are trained to only to do that to violent offenders.  Physically violent, not verbally.  What was this boy going to do to her, throw a beer bottle at her house-sized butt and miss?  Hell, if she didn’t have gravity control, she would crush twelve Humans a day without knowing.  And yet all this guy does to grab her attention is carry on like a drunken idiot at a public event that would obviously attract a hundred drunken idiots.  Jahigra help her if she ever came across a street performer on Festival Day.”

Valko and Kaski laughed uproariously at that final line, while Ziva chuckled softly.

“I’m beginning to like this guy,” said Valko.  “At least he has the right idea.”

“Maybe we should reach out to him,” said Kaski.

“Maybe,” said Valko.

Above the crystal, Skymarshal Mirithaka was trying to contain her anger, but her downturned snout and burning glare betrayed her emotions.  “You have never struck me as one who holds my species in high regard,” she said.  “But, then, there is not one watching or listening who would be the least bit surprised by your invective.”

“Oh, listen to it!” Valko shouted over Klombasko’s fuming denials.  “Just listen to it!  ‘Boo hoo hoo!  I’m a thirty-ton mindless killing machine with hundreds of gigawatts of mass destruction power and a ten million salary and I’m hurt by your mean comments!  Boo hoo hoo!’  They’re all the bloody same.  Every last one of them.”

“And what about tearing off his shirt?” said Klombasko.  “Where’s that one in the Skywatch rule book?  Is that another case of blatent assault on a civilian or what?”

“Yes bitch!” Valko shouted in support.

“I have never once denied that Officer Sabilikon stepped out of line on that night,” said Mirithaka.  “She has been appropriately disciplined and demoted.  Her formal demotion ritual is only hours away.”

“Demoted!?” shouted Klombasko, his jowls turning red.  “Demoted!?  She should be kicked out of the Skywatch with your own personal scorch-mark on her butt as a reminder!  She should have a docility crystal drilled into her skull and be made to herd cattle on the Eastern Border for the next hundred years!  And given one sheep a day as payment!  She should be lucky to get even that!”

“That’s right, starve her!” said Valko.  “Make her arse shrink like a sun-dried tomato so no male Dragon would even look at her without chundering mounds of soot everywhere.  That’s the least she deserves.”

The hologram replayed Valko’s confrontation with Sabilikon as Klombasko continued his rant.

“See that look on her face?” said Kaski.  “She wanted to get naughty with you!”

“Don’t be stupid,” said Valko.

“Seriously!” said Kaski.  “That’s their expression when they want to start humping each other!”

“You’d know, wouldn’t you, you bloody pervert?”

Ziva kept her mouth closed as she snorted laughter, briefly pausing her engraving to avoid another accident.

“Then why to you think she tore your shirt off?” said Kaski.  “Hey?  I mean, just how obvious can you get?”

An empty beer bottle rose up from the floor and thonked him on the head.

“Hey!  I was just taking the piss!”  Kaski rubbed the back of his head.

“Then piss off,” said Valko.  

Ziva supressed another chuckle.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter what they do with that big bitch,” said Valko.  “Her or that loud-mouthed one on stage.  ‘Cause we know what’s coming, don’t we?”

Kaski nodded silently, all mirth and outrage forgotten.  Ziva nodded too.

“We all felt it on that day, didn’t we?” said Valko.

Again, there were silent nods.

“I was thirteen,” said Kaski.  “On the train on my way to school.  It felt like …”

“Like Jahigra Himself punched a hole right through the middle of your brain just to wake you up from your stupor?” said Valko.

“Yeah,” said Kaski.  “Just like that.  And then I looked to the west.  To the coast.  I just knew where it was coming from.”

“We all did,” said Valko.  “Even animals did.  Even bloody Dragons.  We all felt the presence of our Creator.  Our real Creator.”

“The Elixir made us?” said Kaski.

“Jahigra used the Elixir to make everything,” said Valko.  “It’s His fingerprint, His trademark on His Creation.  It was here long before any of us, long before this planet.  And who did it choose first?”

“Dahal Savithar,” said Kaski, glancing at Valko’s now infamous chest tattoo.

“The Great Man himself,” said Valko.  “And then that twenty-thousand year-old zombie bitch from the Age of Machines had to steal the Elixir’s power and take him on.”

“Yeah,” said Kaski.  “Why did she win?”

“Did she?”

“Well … he never came back, did he?”

“But he will,” said Valko.  “I’ve been dreaming of this coming moment for years now.  A beautiful Angel with the wings of a white swan is towering over me.  You can’t see his face, because it’s brighter than the Sun.  He holds a flaming sword in one hand.  In the other is a severed Dragon’s head, dripping its filthy orange blood all over the ground.  And there are cries of hundreds of children - all the innocent Human children the Beast has devoured.  And then the Angel shows his face.  And it’s him.  It’s Lord Dahal Savithar.  And he’s come to save us and judge this wicked world.”

“Woah,” said Kaski.  “That sounds … I don’t know, like something from the Scriptures.  Like something straight out of the Apocalypse.  But … if Jahigra chose him, why did he lose the fight at all?”

“Don’t ever say he lost,” said Valko.  “Lord Dahal was chosen for something a lot bigger than just one fight.  Jahigra let Gabrielle win, then stripped her of her powers so she could live among us as a mortal again.  And why would He do that?”

“To test us?” said Kaski.

“Right.  To let her lead the world astray.  Only the pure would refuse to follow her.  After all, what’s she doing now?”

“Advising the Global Council,” said Kaski.  “Writing books.”

“And what better way to influence the weak of spirit?” said Valko.  “To get into our heads and hearts.  Not to mention all the Dragon friends she’s made.  And her connection with Mayhara.”

“That’s what creeps me out,” said Kaski.

“Don’t worry.  Jahigra’s a lot bigger than Mayhara.  And when Lord Dahal returns, armed with Jahigra’s pure Divine Fire, it’s gonna be a great day.  He’s gonna cast Gabrielle and all the False Gods into a bottomless pit – all the Kujiras and Moredrex, all in the waste bucket like yesterdays fish scraps.  Then he’ll burn away all Human unbelievers and traitors and rule over those who remain, that’s you and me.  And all the fucking soot lizards will be our slaves.  They’ll be like horses with wings – all docile and obedient.  And the world will belong to us, as it always should have.”

“Yeah,” said Kaski.  “It’ll be great.  Telling those soot lizards what to do and where to go.  They’re only good for two things – flying and blood.”

“What about their blood?”  Valko gave Kaski one of his piercing stares that gave him the chills.

“Well, you know, for healing and all that.”

“Have you forgotten what we learned six years ago?  Who put those nano things in their blood?”

“The Moredrex.”

“That’s right.  Demons.  And the Dragons willingly infect us so we could become like them.  They’re using their own blood to control the hospitals and Global Medicine, just as they control everything else.”

“But … but the other guys have been using –“

“They used to heal themselves with Dragon blood whenever they get into a scrap.  But now we’re putting all the pieces together.  We’re being tested, remember?”

“But didn’t Mayhara give us our powers?” said Kaski.  “Isn’t that, like, the same thing?”

“What, do you trust the fattest bitch in the universe?  Do you believe every word she says?  Our powers came straight from the Elixir, the Blood of Jahigra, the only Blood that matters.  But something went wrong.  We’re not all equal.  That wouldn’t be a problem, except there are way too many powerful unbelievers, and a lot of pure folk like us can only do pissy things like seeing through wood and moving furniture around with our heads.  And whose fault is that?”


“That’s right.  The fat bitch betrayed Jahigra’s purpose, so He cast her down into the ocean to give birth to a race of monsters while remaining a virgin.  That’s the least she deserves.  Though I can’t imagine what hideous abomination would want to screw her.”

“A blind one?” said Kaski.

Valko chuckled.  “Yeah.  Something straight from Hell itself I’d imagine.  But that’s where she’s going anyway.  Her real punishment is yet to come.”

“And it’ll be forever!” Kaski said with a grin.

“Yeah.  Forever.  That day is coming.  But for now, we’re stuck with an impure world.  With uneven powers and tainted Dragon blood.”

“So we better not ride in their pouches anymore,” said Kaski.

Valko gave him another one of those stares.  “Why not?” he said.

“Well, you know.  That’s how their antibodies get into your system.  Like with their joeys.  There was this survey done –“

“A Dragon’s pouch is dry you idiot!” said Valko.

“Yeah, I know, most of the time.  But when –“

“Blah blah blah blah!  I don’t care what the scientists and propagandists say!  It’s all part of the Big Deception!  Don’t you keep up with anything?  How do you think I’m going to fly to Avercrom every summer?  Hey?”

“Well, you could ride on their neck.”

“On their neck?  Flying over the mountains?  Eight hours at freezing altitudes?  Are you really that thick?”

Kaski looked away, not wanting to continue the argument.  His attention wandered to the crystal.  The debate between Klombasko and Mirithaka was long over.  Gatzintoff was now on the subject of that Sentinel spy captured in Vysolok.

“Lieutenant Haverson has been detained in Vysolok’s so-called Department of Vermin Control for the past two weeks, and is said to be awaiting execution for espionage and trespassing upon the near-isolated Dragon State.  While treatment and accommodation of the Varantuan-born Human officer has been said to be as ethical as local laws would allow, there has so far been no communication –“

“There you go,” said Valko.  “Soot lizards showing their true colours.  Give them their own nation and what do they do?  Set up a dictatorship and officially call Humans ‘vermin’.  The Great Lord Savithar had the right idea.  Stick a crystal spike in their skulls and make them feel nothing but pain if they even think wrong.”

“That would be fun,” said Kaski.  “I can’t wait.”

“Neither can I.”

Ziva retracted her hand from Valko’s and removed the monocle from her eye.  “It’s finished,” she said.

Valko held out his hand before him, bending his fingers claw-style to view Ziva’s handiwork on his middle fingernail.  The portrait of Vanzikarn the Dragon Slayer was filled in and coloured with lifelike detail, the lightning caressing his Crystal Sword in a hundred silky-fine threads of energy.  Valko promised himself to look at it under Janzol’s microscope later that day.  He was certain that it would show as much detail as any large painting in the Saitruja Gallery, like Ziva’s other fingernail engravings.

“It’s fine,” he said flatly.

“Fine?” said Ziva.

“Yeah,” said Valko.  “You can leave now.  You can do Kazgarzen on my thumbnail tomorrow.  Kaski, her pay.”

Kaski flicked a pure gold coin to Ziva, who was too drained to catch it in time.  She picked it up off the floor.

“Same time tomorrow,” said Valko.  “Don’t fuck up.”

Ziva sighed and dragged her feet out of the clubhouse, not looking back as she closed the door.

“Do you think Dragons could see those pictures?” said Kaski.

“Of course they could,” said Valko.  “They could probably see a pimple on a monkey’s arse from above the clouds.  Not that it makes a difference to me.  I could walk outside right now with my shirt off, rubbing Great Lord Savithar in their faces, and they wouldn’t be allowed to give me anything worse than a dirty look.”

“Yeah, but one day, one of those soot lizards is going to burn you for real.”

“So?  That soot lizard gets a murder charge and spends the next five hundred years all drugged up in Goroklia behind an energy cage.  I become a martyr, Humans all over the world wake up and rally in my name, and a few Dragons get a lovely shot of arsenic in their drinking water and die choking on their own soot.  The Revolution begins and Jahigra smiles.”

“Yeah,” said Kaski.  “That’s when Lord Shavithar returns and sets up the Human Kingdom all over the planet.”

“That he will,” said Valko.  “And if we’re lucky, we’ll live to see it.”

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RE: A Human Prisoner in the Dragon Kingdom - by DarrenRyding - 08-21-2022, 03:35 PM

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